Heartland Championship Round 8
Thames Valley 27 Whanganui 35
Whanganui came to Boyd Park Te Aroha hungry, for a win over Thames Valley to ensure that they would gain a home final for the Lochore Cup. With their 35-27 victory the Butcher Boys achieved their objective and will now play North Otago in Whanganui next Sunday. On the other hand the Swamp Foxes had already qualified for the Meads Cup final and although they played with vigour and determination it may well have been Whanganui’s greater motivation that carried the day for the visitors.
The match was a wonderful rehearsal for both teams leading into their finals next week. It was hard, no compromising football with neither side taking a step backward. At times the heat of the sun was matched by hot tempers on the field and three yellow cards were issued. Whanganui had a huge height advantage in the lineouts whereas Thames Valley were the better in the scrums. The mid field defence by each side was of a high standard which limited attacking opportunities out wide.
The Butcher Boys got off to a perfect start with seven points on the scoreboard after two minutes of play. In his 50th appearance for Whanganui, flanker Jamie Hughes went over in maul for a try which Ethan Robinson converted. Todd Doolin opened Thames Valley’s scoring with a penalty goal. Robinson kicked two further penalty goals as did Doolin to make the score- Whanganui 13 Thames Valley 9. Joe Cook then scored an excellent try in finishing off a long range attack and with Doolin’s conversion the Swamp Foxes led by 16-13. Almost immediately Whanganui replied with a clever cross kick to Kameli Kuruyabaki who had a clear run in to score. There was no conversion and Whanganui had regained the lead to make the half time score. Whanganui 18 Thames Valley 16.
Ten minutes into the second half the scores were level. Robinson had kicked a further penalty goal and Sam van der Walk scored a fine opportunist try off the back of a lineout for Thames Valley. A try to Te Rangatira Waitokia, converted by Craig Clare saw the Butcher Boys ahead 28-21. Doolin closed the gap with a penalty goal but Clare then scored a try of his own which he converted. Doolin’s fifth penalty goal enabled the Valley to still be in touch at 35-27 but Whanganui closed down the game with some excellent tactical kicking and there was no further scoring.
With his 17 points from 5 penalty goals and 1 conversion Todd Doolin has now scored 119 points for Thames Valley with 107 of those being in Heartland games.
Although disappointed to lose their unbeaten record in the 2021 Heartland competition Thames Valley will now have a greater appreciation of what is ahead of them in the final at Timaru.
The challenge is there for the Swamp Foxes- Kia kaha.